Can't Ski, Won't Ski: Saying No (and Yes) to the Slopes

February 10, 2016 By Tasneem Mohamed 0 Comments

Winter may see the Dutch flock to the slopes but, despite her best efforts, this mama just couldn't share her Dutch husband's enthusiasm for skiing. Read on to find out how she managed to join in while making her own holiday traditions.

Skiing for Dummies

I first got on skis post-thirty; it was the same year my son, aged four, and daughter, aged three, started. My Dutch husband’s traditions dictate a ski holiday annually, and it’s a wonderful family affair.

Naturally, like father and grandfather, the kids took to the slopes just fine - but not me.

As expats, it’s normal to want to experience the customs of the country in which we live. In Holland, skiing and camping have a special spot on the cultural circuit. Many of us want to follow suit but find ourselves introduced a little late’r’ in life.

The thing is, once you turn thirty (or thereabouts), and especially after you become a mom, you become aware that you can’t just climb every mountain and follow every dream anymore - not successfully, at any rate. Also, being born in the tropics is not conducive to mastering a winter sport.

This is not an article with revolutionary instructions for amateurs who want to ski. It’s rather an explanation of the seemingly-simple reasons that some of us, simply, can’t.

Did I Mention that for Three Years I (quite) Regularly went to Ski School?

In my first year on the charming slopes of Austria’s Alpine Tirol area, I joined a three-day ski class for adults. The lessons were four hours per day, with a mid-day break for lunch in restaurants on the slopes. It sounded simple enough…however, the agony started well before I hit the slopes.

Ski rental stores are a wet flurry of chaos: too many people, too many skis, too many boots, too many lost hats and some lost kids. They weigh you, measure your height and assign you full-length skis, the assumption being that you have skied before. If you find yourself in this situation, please ask for shorter skis, which are simpler to handle, as I discovered only in year three.

Ski rental stores are a wet flurry of chaos: too many people, too many skis, too many boots, too many lost hats and some lost kids.

The next challenge en route to the slopes is making it through the gondolas. Getting in and out of a moving gondola, with skis, poles, and heavy ski boots is not easy, even for seasoned skiers. These things sound trite, but believe me, they are quite a hurdle for new skiers. Ski classes mostly start with several rounds of practice, where you go up a little slope on a travelator and have to ski down with your skis in a pizza formation (joined at the tips, far apart at the end, like a slice of pizza – it helps control your speed on a slope). Not easy.

If you do ok on that you get to a slightly steeper slope and start learning to go left and right. And if you do OK on that, you might make it to a chair lift to an even longer slope. I never got that far so I have no idea what comes next. After three days of classes that first year, followed by a single snup tage (trial day) in the second and third year, I gracefully gave up.

The kids in the mean time were doing great! And my family was amazing about my not having done so great; not only did they suggest Tiger Balm cream for my sore rear - every night - but they started to plan the week so the adults only skied three days and could spend the remaining time with me. My in-laws don’t ski anymore and I spend some days with them doing little walks in the village or scouting the local conditoreis (bakers). 

Other Pistes to Conquer

Austria is a great destination for people who don’t ski. If you’re a keen hiker, you’ll find yourself in paradise! On a sunny day, you can walk for miles and miles along the periphery of the valley and bask in the glory of the winter sun along the way. Innsbruck has castles, museums, shops, cafés, and amazing rail connectivity to Italy, Switzerland, and Germany.

During our winter breaks, on non-ski days, we have taken off to Venice for a night, spent the day in Salzburg, and visited Munich and Zurich by train. Despite the slight hiccup of not being able to ski, I continue to enjoy the magical winter wonderland, off my rear, and on my feet - instead of on my entangled skis. Though, I must honestly add that in the run-up to our ski holiday this year, I find myself tempted to give it one more shot. I’ve considered taking lessons near the Overtoom or in Landsmeer, at indoor ski schools.

If you don’t mind your kids swooshing down and waving to you on the bunny slopes, and if your ego stays intact when your instructor says, “get up yourself even if it takes all day”, I suggest to first-timers that you give skiing a shot. And for those who have tried and are on the verge of giving up, I say, if your bruised rear and sore legs are not a major concern, then keep on trying!

I continue to enjoy the magical winter wonderland, off my rear, and on my feet - instead of on my entangled skis.

There is a reason thousands of people return to the slopes every year: skiing is fun, it’s glamorous, and it’s a family sport. Once conquered, it must feel fabulous to have the wind in your face, as you glide over the snow and watch the slopes gently fade away behind you. However, if age and pedigree are not suitable, you’re likely to never get past the ‘pizza’ on the piste. And that’s OK.

Each year I explore the villages around Innsbruck and discover a new part of the picturesque countryside. On the days that everyone is skiing, I put on my boots and walk through the village on my own. I find a bakery for lunch, a tourist shop for postcards, which I fill in over a verlängerter (café latte), and eventually the post office, where I send off my overseas greetings.

At other times, I stay indoors in our wonderful chalet and write by the window. Overlooking the slated roofs with huffing chimneys, and with the backdrop of the snow-covered mountains, inspiration comes easy.


Tasneem Mohamed is originally from India and now lives in Amsterdam with her Dutch husband and their two children. She has been a writer and editor for the last 15 years. In 2012, she started her own company, Mumbai Mills, that sources and creates lifestyle products. She also publishes an annual agenda, 'The Mumbai Diary'.


photo credit: Yay Images

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